The Return

Stillness, darkness, death.
Silent as the grave, they say.
And so it was. Life had gone out of
The Lord of Life.  A quiet tomb held
Him. Until the third day. On the third day
There was a stirring. Oh, much more than a stirring.
A cataclysmic shaking. A splitting of rocks, a rolling away
Of the sealing gravestone. Or maybe it didn’t just roll, maybe it
Was KICKED.  Kicked aside in disdain. A huge dominating angel
From on high came, shoving aside death with disdain, looking like a
Strike of lightening. Crackling and brilliant. It was the pivot of all time.
From the defeat of death to the Return of Rightness to the earth.
The balance of Peace, Everlasting Life.  The return of Truth and the
Wiping away of the stains of Deception, the tarnish of Rebellion.

He was up, out and away.
Set on the work of finding us.
Calling us and saving us.

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it.  His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow.  The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead,  just as he said would happen.”

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 28 verses 1-6  New Living Translation

And Then…What Happened?

Yes.  He died, succumbing to all his wounds.  It didn’t take long.  By three in the afternoon, he was gone…with a distinct, loud cry. Some people didn’t understand what he had spoken at the end.  Sounds of thunder and a darkness were noticed across the countryside.  The earth shook.

They didn’t even have time to break his legs, as was the usual custom, to hasten death.  Into a  rock tomb his body was hurried before the sun could set, wrapped quickly, unwashed, grimy, still seeping blood, unprepared for proper burial rest.  A huge rock was quickly rolled across the tomb’s doorway and guards were put in place.  This was a strange business and the authorities did not want any trouble cropping up.

But real trouble was on the way.   In the darkness, before long, something happened to this man.  He had been dead.  A thorough punishment, a violent whipping and brutal piercing had accomplished the killing.  Did the Roman soldiers realize that he was beaten and whipped for their sakes!  That he had nailed down sin? Did the Jewish authorities, the Law Keepers, know that he had  brought about the completion of their Law?  No, they didn’t know it.  Not then.

When the WORK was done, all the powers of the God of the Universe, the God of All Heaven pressed back down into him and he was transformed.  He lived again, not just surviving, but totally renewed. The yoke was thrown off of him… first one of all.  The yoke of death.   It was RESURRECTION.  The first fruit of the Newness of Life.  He was ushered out of the darkness by angels too bright to look on.

He was seen by many.  His friends, his followers, hundreds of people saw him over a period of days.  He had fresh new life.  An incorruptible body.  Heavenly powers.  But his piercings remained for all to see, to examine. It could not be explained.

This was real trouble for the world.  The entire world, not just his city, not just for Rome, but all.  He had accomplished a change in the world which could not be denied, could not be ignored, could not be destroyed.  He lived again.  He gives us that same life.  He lives today.

He is the Lord of Life.


“Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah Chapter 53 NIV version of the Bible

 

Painting at top by Caravaggio~ 16th Century
Christ portrait by Il Cuercino~16th Century

What Kind of Person?

What kind of person arrives at a place where the next thing to do, the next choice, is to be nailed to a cross, resulting in death?

The Romans who practiced this form of capital punishment used it for criminals, enemies of the state, those who came against the Laws of Rome, and by this time in history, defiance of the demands of the Emperor .  The accused, in this case a young Jew, could call for help from the Temple leaders. There could have been a way out, a compromise.  A person could always plead for mercy.   Advocates could wrangle, argue, demand, plead, bargain.  But that didn’t happen.  There was no friend on the horizon.  The young Jewish man did not call for any human help… did not retract his claims…

The Romans despised those going to the cross. They mocked them. So did everyone else. The lowest of the low went to the cross.  Public humiliation, public stripping, public execution.

So what kind of person would chose this?  I guess it would be someone who thought it might do some good, might provide something for others, might undo a curse or tear down a prison, might turn things around and bring a new kind of life.  It certainly was not an easy decision, not an easy road.  Only a very strong person would chose it.  Stronger than death, it would seem.

A Victor would do this.  An all-time Winner.  A Lover of Souls.  A Savior.

Statue of Cristo Rey, Uribici Soler sculptor, Mount Cristo Rey, New Mexico. Photo by Max Bower

 

An Entirely New Environment

An Entirely New Environment     Oil on Canvas 24″X24″

One morning I woke up with this hazy design in my head.  I thought it was a possible painting.  I did nothing about it.  The next morning, there it was again upon waking.  Hazy, but I loved the colors and the filmy white.  Still no action from me.  The third morning, when this image showed up, I got the message that I needed to follow through and try this out on canvas.

I began with thinly painted acrylics on the square canvas.  I always love the square shape.  I worked it a bit.  The words came to me, “An Entirely New Environment.”  I thought it meant a new environment for our nation.  This was in the early fall of 2016, before the national election.   The feeling I had was that new materials and new actions would be pulled over an “empty bed of darkness” which was the area to the left.   The clouds of action, gifts, new ideas and life would be pulled over and cover the darkness, from right to left.   I later realized this was to be as a result of the Presidential election.   It looked like a cloud containing so many new things.  And it was active, swirling, moving, doing… a colorful mix!

I left this to sit and brew for some time.  Eventually, I moved to oil paints as I wanted a richer surface.  I sealed the painting with a cold-wax polish made from bee’s wax, giving a consistent satin finish to the entire surface.  The final product is rather more definite in the shapes than the first beginning:  Fire from above, lavender shapes of prudence and justice.  A pod-like struggle with the darkness in the center.  A few small thin cuts of blood red.  Patches of new growth in green. The salmon pink could be the presence of new “flesh” working with energy on old problems.

The white cloudy base is the under-girding inspiration from heaven above.

Do you see it?

 

Horses Among the Myrtle Trees

The First Vision of Zechariah

The Prophet Zechariah told of a number of visions which were given to him during the time of Israel’s return from exile in foreign lands.  Zechariah’s role was to encourage, strengthen and stimulate the downtrodden Jews who were trying to start over in their land of inheritance with words straight from God.

The image above is a miniature painted by an unknown artist around 1300 A.D.  on the isle of Sicily.  It is now the property of the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California.  The painting was done in tempera and gold on parchment and is a tiny illustration, only a few inches in size, taken from a copy of the Old Testament book of Zechariah.

This subject has rarely been depicted in art.  I don’t know why, as it is one of the most striking and eerie descriptions in the Bible.   Zechariah looks outside in the night and sees someone on a horse among the shadows of myrtle trees.  (The trees in this illustration seem pitifully small.)  There are various colored horses, red, chestnut and white.  An authoritative angelic voice tells him that these horses are ridden by angels as part of God’s angelic army.  They range throughout the earth “checking things.”  They report their findings to the angel in the myrtle grove.   “We have looked over the whole earth and all is well.  Everything is under control.”

All is well?  This is an astounding statement in the midst of a land and time of strife and turmoil.  It makes me wonder if these eternal angelic beings are still patrolling the area, still checking things. Would they also find that “all is well” today? Maybe so from God’s Almighty perspective.  Maybe, though we see a time of confusion, danger and strife, the Lord of All sees that all is well and all will be well.

In any case, I love this Biblical image.  It gives me a bit of a shiver.  I wonder about angels on horseback, and a many-colored troupe of horses.  I see them stamping and pawing among the shadowy trees in the night.  The stars are above to guide, the wind is  softly blowing.  The night is theirs to explore and all is open to their view.  I am going to have to get up and out in the night here at my house, to see if they swirl by with their snorting breath and strong legs, carrying an angelic host.

Quotations from The Message version of the Bible.

Come In We’re Open

The Christ of the Shop

Today I saw a Man pass by my shop,

As many pass along this way each day.

He looked at me, but work I did not stop–

Refused to hear the Word He had to say.

But as this day comes to a usual end,

It’s He alone remains in my mind ‘s eye,

For something stirs in my heart deep within.

Of Him my memory draws a longing sigh.

What is it in me now that makes me think

That I am but a mirror of His face,

Where in me His pure image is made faint

By my sin’s role in Adam’s fall from grace?

That night in bed I hear a gentle knock

On my closed door, all bolted and secure,

And in my heart I know I will unlock

My door and hope it’s He with my sin’s cure.

I rise and pull the bolt with trembling hands,

fling open wide a door long frozen shut;

And there at unbarred door, that same Man stands-

Asks me with Him to at His table sup.

He comes inside and sets a wedding feast

With His dear Mother and His Cana friends;

And there, around His table, gives His Peace

To all who back to world again He sends.

I open up my shop when morning breaks

And He is there in each comes through shop’s door;

For once His image made He ne’er forsakes

Us here who open door with spirits poor.

 

by The  Rev. “Knick”  Knickerbocker

Easter Day

The Strife is O’er

The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory of life is won,
The song of triumph has begun.  ALLELUIA!

The powers of death have done their worst,  but Christ their legions hath dispersed:  let shout of holy joy outburst.  ALLELUIA!

The three sad days are quickly sped, He rises glorious from the dead:  all glory to our Risen Head!  ALLELUIA!

He closed the yawning gates of hell, the bars from heaven’s high portals fell: let hymns of praise His triumphs tell!  ALLELUIA!

Lord!  By the stripes which wounded thee, from death’s dread sting thy servants free, that we may live and sing to Thee.  ALLELUIA!

ALLELUIA…ALLELUIA…ALLELUIA

The Journey

I see myself in a field of mud; it is so “boggy”, that I can hear my shoes sucking air as they slog through this rich, brown, heavy mud.  It is deep and messy, but I don’t mind.  I am looking ahead to a waving field of green and white which is before me.  As I approach I see that it is a field of lilies!  Huge, tall crisp-stalked ones. I move in among them and see that I have to push them aside to walk through. They bump against each other, heavy and crisp with water filling their stalks and dew on their leaves.  The flowers are pure white and curl perfectly into shape.  Walking is easier now; I know I am going to a thrilling place.

Beyond the lilies, the earth is perfectly smooth and covered in a fine green grass.  A little further and I have walked into a forest of gigantic trees! It is so cool here.  Filtered light and a freshness in the atmosphere charm me.  I notice that the huge dark trunks are growing far enough apart to create a feeling of space and grandness of scale.  Beyond, I see the end of the forest and reluctantly walk on.  I am tempted to stay among these powerful tree trunks. It’s a place that radiates protection and rest. But, the light and openness beyond the trees beckon me on.  Walking out of the forest, the sky seems endless and deeply blue. I am in a big place and I can see forever! The open space and sloping plain of grass lead on.

Then I see it!  The path downhill leads to a small brown low-roofed cottage. The late afternoon sun is still warm and bright, but the cottage down the hill is in the shade now and has a glowing lamp lit in the window. I am glad to see it welcoming me. Dusk drops down quickly on me as I reach the cottage entrance.  The door is wide open!  I walk in unafraid through the low cottage door.

The interior glows with beauty…. burnished, well cared for and simple.  Of course, Jesus is there near the entrance, quietly waiting for me.  The only word to describe Him is PURE.  He offers me a beautiful silver chalice with wine.  He motions to a loaf of brown bread on the table.  He welcomes me silently, but his eyes direct me to look out a huge  window.  I see that the cottage is nestled on the edge of blue eternity… out there  blue mountains and endless blue space fill the distance and I know that we are going on to an indescribable place.  We simply step off into space together and the ultimate journey begins.

 

Saved by The Blood of a Lamb

The Lord Will Passover

 Exodus 12  verses 21 -28

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel together and said to them,

“Go, pick out a lamb or young goat for each of your families, and slaughter the Passover animal.  Drain the blood into a basin. Then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into the blood. Brush the hyssop across the top and sides of the doorframes of your houses. And no one may go out through the door until morning.  For the LORD will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the LORD will pass over your home. He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you. Remember, these instructions are a permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever.

When you enter the land the LORD has promised to give you, you will continue to observe this ceremony.  Then your children will ask, ‘What does this ceremony mean?’  And you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. And though he struck the Egyptians, he spared our families.’”

When Moses had finished speaking, all the people bowed down to the ground and worshiped. So the people of Israel did just as the LORD had commanded through Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 12   verses 40-42

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years.  In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land.  On this night the Lord kept his promise to bring his people out of the land of Egypt. So this night belongs to him, and it must be commemorated every year by all the Israelites, from generation to generation.

From the New Living Translation

Darkness in the Garden

There was darkness in the Garden. A double darkness. There was the intense natural darkness among the olive trees that night. No torches lit the way and no one was expecting to go to the heavily leaf-ed grove across the Kidron valley, away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem on a Passover evening. But He knew where he was going.

There was also the second darkness.  The darkness of the horror of the cross. The darkness of sin, not imagined but keenly felt by the One who knew no sin.  It’s a wonder He didn’t stumble, panic and run away.  But He didn’t.  He prayed, He lay on His face,  asking for the strength to follow through.  To go all the way to an undeserved death…to the facing of the terrible separation, never known before.

Finally, there was  confusion in the darkness, as there usually is.  Someone lost his ear.  But identity was established and there was a kiss in the darkness.  How confusing! Many ran away from that place terrified.  One was bound and led away.  A Lamb to the slaughter.